Juliet McFadden, a final year German and Politics student, is one of six candidates running for UCDSU President.
An American who has also lived in Germany and Austria, McFadden is using her mix of campus and international-based experience for the campaign. She is ‘ready to help the SU move on from a difficult year this year and getting back to its basics, so working more towards activism, but also continuing to improve just the student experience on campus.’
McFadden noted the ability of the Trinity protestors to capture national media attention. When asked if she would take part in a similar action, she ’would not be opposed to it’, and mentioned the SU’s history of protesting, including the condom machine incident. ‘I think if that’s what it takes to get the administration to take students seriously, then yes, but if there’s other ways that’ll be more productive, then I’d be happy to move along those routes.’
McFadden wants to promote recycling and ‘has been trying to meet with Campus Estates to no success.’ ‘It’s really kind of different to understand how recycling works on campus, what’s preventing us from having more recycling bins.’
She envisages working alongside the Environmental co-ordinator for these plans. ‘The Exec needs to make sure they are taking advantage of their skills, resources and knowledge, but at the same time, by putting it in my manifesto I’m noting it as something that’s important to me, and to a lot of other students, so making sure that it actually gets done, not just leaving it to a student who might not have the time to really, fully accomplish what I’m hoping to.’
When asked about the work of the co-ordiantors, she noted the SU has a problem with a lack of visibility in general, ‘there are these different co-ordinators but it’s hard to kind of understand what exactly they are doing, especially because often the records aren’t put up online after Council meetings, so it’s things like that that we need to start improving to increase visibility and accountability for the SU.’
McFadden said over the past number of years ‘it’s hard to have consistent student engagement with the SU and one of the main reasons I see for this is because there’s too much focus on having weeks that are just full of events.’ She wants a constant stream of events, which will require more involvement with societies. She gave the example of students knowing that ‘every Thursday evening, for example, that the SU would run an event for students.’
McFadden mentioned the low cost in Germany and Austria and the high cost in the US. ‘Raising them is not the answer.’ She mentioned the work of the UCD Foundation to get alumni donations to support the university. UCDSU ‘being linked in’ with the Foundation’s campaigns ‘wouldn’t hurt’, but stated she had no ‘specific plan’ for it.
McFadden wants more information on how to apply for extenuating circumstances. She thinks the current system of having to provide lectures with information when applying for extenuating circumstances is putting off students who have experienced a certain trauma and who do not wish to share it.
McFadden also has ‘big issues’ with the Dignity and Respect Policy. ‘Going into university you should know the rules of the institution you’re at, and that’s not the case for most students, including myself until this year basically.’ She spoke about issues with UCD having multiple policies making it difficult both to make complaints and find out under which one a complaint is to be made.
While extenuating circumstance issues are more towards the end of each semester, she noted that student support workshops and Dignity and Respect policy issues would be weekly events. She said the SU needs to take the lead on providing Dignity and Respect Policy information to students.
Her solution to these problems is ‘one single policy, [and] a basic education campaign for students to know they have the SU’s support.’ While an information campaign can be organised, it appears to be unlikely any major changes to the policies could be enacted within a year.
Similarly, she is planning on holding weekly workshops for students with disabilities, which would be carried out in conjunction with the disability co-ordinator and the Access Centre.
McFadden’s plans to be present at all of these events would increase the Presidential workload. When asked about this challenge, she noted ‘the best thing the SU President can do is to be present on campus and to be meeting people, not just be somebody whose stuck in their office all day. That being said, there are a lot of responsibilities that the President has outside of just being able to meet students.’
As a student who lives on campus, McFadden told the Tribune that when she talks to the administration they tell her they want the Residential Assistants (RAs) to be seen more as ‘community liaisons’ than just being there to shut down parties, ‘but when I’ve talked to staff within Res they don’t offer specific plans on how they want them to do that. They recognised there are problems but they don’t say how they’re fixing them.’
‘A student who already has a course load and is dealing with things in their own life is not going to be the best person to deal with another student whose in a crisis situation’, so having more full time staff is the solution.
‘I think there’s a lack of oversight within Res on campus that needs to be addressed, and the lack of student input that needs to be addressed.’ She said that management does not talk to the students who live in the buildings and ‘they’re trying to put in place these policies that are student based but don’t actually involve the students in their implementation.’ Res Life events are infrequent and poorly promoted. McFadden ‘definitely thinks there is an argument to be made’ to bring the UCD Ball back to campus as UCD is about to double the number student beds over the coming years.
McFadden initially supported re-joining USI then changed positions after seeing the cost of membership. She believes the money is better spent within UCD. McFadden referenced a recent Niall Torris interview where he said that USI did not do much for postgraduate students.
The Presidential Campaign
McFadden has no problem with Barry Murphy running for re-election. ‘That being said I think I would make a better President…I haven’t held positions within the SU but I’m the type of student that I want more students to be able to be. I go to Council meetings just to observe. I’m interested in issues that are being discussed. I go to different events that the SU is putting on. I attend things like Empowerment Week and Women in Leadership workshops, things like that, so having that experience would allow me to get more done.’
‘I think Barry’s done a good job this year of bridging over what happened with Katie [Ascough] and adding stability to the SU, but I think it’s time to have a new Sabbatical team with new eyes, with new focus, not just focusing on the things that weren’t able to happen this year because of the impeachment.’
McFadden’s plans to hold more events and press the university on a number of major issues are ambitious, but may leave her overextended for a campaign based on ‘no empty promises’. Up against five other candidates with more Union experience, it remains to be seen if trying to fully throw off the outsider tag to be known as ‘an outsider with an insider’s perspective’ will be enough to be heard in such a crowded field. However, she is in a prime position to pick up votes from those outside of Union circles who are seeking something different.
Cian Carton – Editor